Getting Your Teeth into Your Work

When I was a preteen, I had this dental problem with my premolars and molars coming in before my baby teeth were kind enough to get out of the way. While the babies were still firmly rooted, the new teeth pushed through. Right through, splitting several of the babies in half, where they eventually came out in fragments.

I feel a bit like that now, as a work on one project while another thrusts its way toward the surface. "Hold on!" I try to tell it. "Wait until I get this other guy out of your way!" But the new idea is so strong, so determined and exciting, it threaten to shatter my concentration on the current work in progress.

One way I've found to deal with this kind of distraction is in the creation of a "future file," where I speed-write a few notes and tuck them away to be sure I won't forget them. Only then will the "new teeth" quit aching and give me the peace I need to give my full attention to the toughest part of writing -- the completion of the already-contracted piece.

Even if you're not under contract, it's very important to learn the habit of finishing things. If you allow your subconscious to get away with distracting you into starting new project after new project, you'll never develop the discipline you need to complete your work by deadline.

Setting personal deadlines is another good work habit. Treat them as if they're real and make them a priority, because in the actual, limited-time world, only things we give the highest precedence get done.

So what are you doing to develop good work habits? And do you have any tips or tricks for keeping yourself on course?


jennymilch said…
I don't think my method is necessarily a good one, and perhaps it won't work if ever I am a "working writer," but I'll just throw it out there for this great post. (Your teeth! I can just feel the fragments beneath my tongue...)

Anyway, my way is to take longish breaks between projects whereby I can scrawl ample notes on the ones that compete for future attention. By the time I am ready to dive into a first draft, it is so intense, and so heated, there's not much room for divergent thoughts. Also, the other ones have mostly been written down already in the lull time.

I'm not talking years or anything, but I have so far found that taking a three month breather between first drafts allows me to work really focusedly when I get back to things.

Of course, this method hasn't panned out yet, so I offer it with a big toothy grin of humility...
LOL on the big, toothy grin.

And the best method's the one that's working for you. Maybe that'll become your modus operandi.

I find that I frequently have to reinvent mine, or the forces of evil (resistance) figure out a way to undermine my dubious work ethic.